How's your FICO Score?

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Since our world is so automated, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay virtually any loan comes down to a single number. This score is built by credit agencies. They use the payment history from your various loans: mortgages, car/motorcycle loans, credit cards, and the like.

All three major credit agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) use a slightly different system to arrive at a score. The original FICO score was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. Experian uses this model and calls its score FICO. Equifax's model, based on FICO, is called BEACON, while TransUnion, which also uses a slightly modified FICO, calls its score EMPIRICA. While each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, the differences aren't huge; each agency uses the following to calculate a score:

  • Credit History - Have you had credit for many years, or for a short time?
  • Late Payments - Have you paid more than 30 days late?
  • Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts? How much do you owe on your accounts?
  • Requests for Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit report for the purpose of giving you a loan?

These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. The result is one number. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is better. Most home buyers have a score above 620.

Not just for qualifying

FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Higher scores indicate you are probably a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.

Improving your score

Is it possible to improve your FICO score? Some companies promise quick fixes, but they can't do anything different than what you can do — for free. (Of course you can and should have incorrect items removed from your credit report.)

Know your FICO score

In order to improve your credit score, you must obtain the reports that the agencies use to build it, and of course, you need the score itself. Fair Isaac, the company that invented the first FICO credit score, offers FICO scores on myFICO.com. It's inexpensive to quickly get your FICO score from all three reporting agencies, along with your credit report. Also available are helpful information and tools that help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.

You can get a free credit report once per year from the three major credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports do not include a free credit score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.

Armed with this info, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the right mortgage for you.

Want to know more about your FICO score? Call us: 800-252-6633.

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